Stand-off in Maldives as ex-president ducks arrest

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THE former president of the Maldives was involved in a stand-off with police trying to arrest him yesterday after he took refuge in the Indian High Commission in capital, Male.

Mohammed Nasheed was the island nation’s first democratically elected leader but was removed from office last year. Since then, his supporters have clashed with security forces in the Indian Ocean archipelago, famous as a tourist destination.

“Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives,” he tweeted on his Twitter page.

Riot police barricaded the street outside the High Commission after Mr Nasheed’s arrival at noon, as his supporters began to gather. India’s foreign ministry said Mr Nasheed had sought India’s assistance and that the High Commission was in touch with Maldivian authorities.

A court ordered Mr Nasheed’s arrest after he missed a scheduled appearance in a case relating to accusations that he illegally detained a judge during the last days of his rule, police spokesman Hassan Haneef said.

“We have received the order and we will be trying to carry it out in accordance with the Maldivian constitution and the order itself,” he added.

Imad Masood, spokesman for the Maldives president, Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik, said the police would wait for Mr Nasheed to come out. “If he doesn’t come, then police will begin to talk to High Commission officials,” he added.

Mr Nasheed claims he was forced from power at gunpoint after opposition protests and a police mutiny. A national commission last August said he was not deposed in a coup, triggering days of protests.

If found guilty in the court case, Mr Nasheed could be barred from standing in a presidential election on 7 September. His party said the trial was an attempt to exclude him.

India has “expressed concern” and called for “free, fair, credible and inclusive elections”.

The Maldives held its first free elections in 2008. Mr Nasheed defeated the autocratic president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled for 30 years.